Xi Jinping’s approach to dealing with Vladimir Putin since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine back a year ago has been unpacked by Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr Gabuev believes Chinese diplomats are looking to “spin” the relationship between Beijing and Moscow so as not to isolate European leaders, while Xi looks to use China’s increasing power over a weakened Russia for the Chinese government’s own ends.
Mr Gabuev wrote on Twitter: “After securing his third term, Xi does a course correction on foreign policy and tries to win back friends in Europe.
“This includes efforts to distance China from Russia (or at least tell the West that Beijing is doing so), because China’s leadership sees that China’s reluctance to criticize the Kremlin and join Western sanctions is viewed in Europe as tacit support for Putin’s brutal war effort. .
“Several Chinese officials in private conversations with the Financial Times strove to put clear daylight between Beijing and Moscow on the issue of Ukraine — a message that has been repeated to some EU diplomats.”
Quoting the FT article he adds: “Putin is crazy,” says one Chinese official, who declined to be identified.
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He explained: “China knows that its problems with the West are not rooted in Xi’s bromance with Putin, but in issues like Chinese-US rivalry, Taiwan, tech, etc.
“Even if Xi drops Putin under the bus, ties with the US will not improve structurally absent China’s fundamental change to US liking. However, the EU is somewhat different.
“Amid fears of a recession in the eurozone, German, French, and Italian leaders rush to Beijing to secure market access, new deals, etc.”
Mr. Gabuev continued: “It wants to create an impression that with a little bit of accommodation of China by Europe, China is actually willing to do more to restrain Putin.”
China and Russia have had a long history of relations, with both countries being neighbors and sharing a long border.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, relations between the two countries have improved, resulting in a number of significant economic, military and political ties.
In January 2022, China abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Russia, and on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Xi Jinping knew of Vladimir Putin’s plans to invade Ukraine and asked him to delay until the Beijing Olympics ended.